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Increase In Tertiary Fees: Justifications And Considerations

The tertiary institutions said they will ensure that there are sufficient financial assistance schemes in place so that no student admitted will be denied the opportunity of an education because of financial difficulties” (Tertiary Education To Cost More, Miss Alvina Soh and Miss Tan Qiuyi).

The news report “Tertiary Education To Cost More” (January 15, 2011) by Miss Alvina Soh and Miss Tan Qiuyi: even though the increase in tertiary schools fees have come at a time when economic recovery has gradually taken root, the hike – especially in the universities – would have considerable ramifications for students. While the increase has been in tandem with the administration’s policy to stagger increase on a year-by-year basis, instead of lumping the rise in school fees together every few years, the current hike appears to have been rolled out at an inopportune moment.

Prospective and existing students from low-income families and middle-income families would be the ones who would be most directly affected. In spite of the promises of heightened financial assistance or bursaries awarded, students without scholarships would definitely struggle with the increase. Pressures would come in the form of increased student loans, their corresponding interest payments, financial burden on the family, long-term budgeting woes et cetera. More importantly, middle-class households would find themselves sandwiched once again, without significant assistance and having to fork out more disposable income for their children’s education. Individuals on the borderline could even face the possibility of even crossing out university education as an option, with future consistent increases potentially adding to the burdens of to-be undergraduates.

Though universities have contended that the annualised fee increases this year are lower than prevailing inflation rates, the administrations have not exactly justified the specific areas in which costs have soared, or genuinely accounted for the respective percentages. The practice of throwing students and families with general information on how the colleges have “enhanced the quality of teaching-learning pedagogies”, and rehashed statistics of its overall performance are not proper explanations. Students and parents are forking out more from their pockets, and they have the right to know why.

Even though the situation has not spiralled out of control as it has in the United Kingdom (UK), where tuition fees are expected to rise three-fold – in terms of raising the fee-cap to £9,000 – there is still a need to balance the fiscal stability of the education institutions with the financial abilities of students. The increase should not compromise the access to education and university, since it would grossly contravene the heralded principles of meritocracy and equal education access to all. The public universities have the responsibility to enhance transparency with regard to the aforementioned aspects, so as to convince on-the-ground Singaporeans amidst rising costs of living.

The fact that fees have risen more sharply for Permanent Residents and foreigners – so as to sharpen differentiation for citizens – is positive, and should not serve as a strong disincentive for education in Singapore given that tertiary costs have risen considerably around the world. The key is for the administration to protect and further the interests of Singaporean education; to ensure that they are granted a financial-worry-free passage through tertiary institutions before they enter the competitive workplace.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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